Nat Panagarry admits wife's cancer battle puts netball in perspective
Nat Panagarry's wife Katie is currently battling cancer
By James Reid, Sportsbeat
Netball is no longer the biggest thing in Nat Panagarry’s life.
When wife Katie was diagnosed with stage four clear cell cancer last year, the hurt that Panagarry felt when Loughborough Lightning lost last season’s Netball Super League Grand Final paled into insignificance.
The 32-year-old’s off-season was not spent at an England training camp but instead went to numerous hospital appointments and a wedding, with the pair tying the knot in November.
Yet with the 2023 Netball Super League season set to get underway this Saturday, the Lightning captain admits that her perspective on life and her sport has totally changed.
“I think if we lift that trophy this year I will be inconsolable, crying with the amount of tears and energy that will have gone into it,” laughed Panagarry.
“It has put things into perspective. Netball is one of the most important things in my life, but not the most important thing.
“That actually takes away a bit of pressure which is quite nice. I feel a bit more chilled within netball now.
“I am more relaxed with my own game, and I put less pressure on myself but that desire to win and hunger has actually intensified.
“It’s there even more, the amount we have all been through as individuals, that will is even more to get to the final and lift that trophy.”
Lightning have unfinished business this term after defeat to Manchester Thunder in last season’s Grand Final at the Copper Box.
Despite defeat, the skipper beams with pride looking back on the match and is confident that experience makes them stronger this time around.
“That final wasn’t the fairytale we wanted it to be,” she reflected.
“I don’t even remember that game, it was just a whirlwind. We’re a bit more prepared for that now, things can happen, anything can be thrown up.
“At one point we were maybe 15-20 down and the game had gone but that fight back of losing by less than 10, I am so proud of that character.
“The culture that we have built, and the friendships we have, you can see that on the court. We get on so well.”
It is this tight-knit culture that has proved invaluable for Panagarry, with the close bond amongst her teammates and the support of head coach Vic Burgess, who herself was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016, key to helping her back on the court.
“I can’t thank the girls enough,” said Panagarry. “Especially Ella [Clark], Beth [Cobden], and Hannah [Joseph]. They have been a rock for me and constantly checking in.
The first match of the #NSL2023 season is a biggie!
🔵🟡 @TeamBathNetball take on @LboroLightning ⚡️
Find out about both teams below:
— Netball Super League (@NetballSL) February 8, 2023
“Vic has spoken to Katie, she has been amazing, I cannot thank her enough. She has been the best coach for me to have in terms of supporting me. Every day she has been checking in and is completely unfazed by it all.
“I was a little bit apprehensive at first as to whether I could handle it. I was quite honest with Loughborough and England that I just physically don’t know and they have been amazing to say they understand that.
“So far I have been able to do everything, and it has been the perfect distraction. Having a bit of my normality has been really good, having a bit of a focus for me mentally to stay healthy to help Katie has been quite important.”
While netball may be Panagarry’s release this season, there is no doubt that Katie will be at the forefront of her mind.
However, while for some it may seem a distraction, Panagarry is hopeful her new perspective will spur her on to better performances.
“She has been incredible,” said Panagarry. “She is my idol and superhero.
“I always think when I play netball I am tired and sore but that’s nothing compared to what her body is going through. For me, it makes it easier watching her, I am in awe.
“In pre-season I felt like I have been playing better and I hope that I can take that into the season.
“I have felt more confident, more comfortable on my feed. If I do make an error, I don’t need to get frustrated. It’s just one and I move on, and there’s been more growth in my game.”
The 2023 Netball Super League season gets underway on Saturday 11 February, live on Sky Sports. Tickets to games across the season can be found at: //netballsl.com/tickets